Homeracing

2019 Kentucky Derby Updated Top 5: Baffert's Got Three

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D.S. Williamson

February 26th, 2019

Before you know it, the major preps for the Kentucky Derby will start taking place. We're in March already, which means the Grade 2 San Felipe, the prep for the Santa Anita Derby, takes place in a couple of weeks. By mid-March, we should have a good idea which horses have done enough to have an impact on the First Saturday in May.

Check out my current Top 5 for the Run for the Roses. Like most everyone else, I've got 3 of Bob Baffert's top runners on my list. However, I don't rank any of the 3 first. Who do I like? This could be the year trainer Mark Casse finally wins the Kentucky Derby.

2019 Kentucky Derby Updated Top 5:  War of Will Takes Top Spot

1. War Of Will

The War Front sired, Gary Barber owned, Mark Casse trained runner has been everything on the sandwich and a bag of chips ever since Casse switched him from turf to dirt. His breeding screams turf, but he obviously prefers the sand. Undefeated in 3 races on dirt, his Risen Star Stakes victory was his best performance yet.

He broke from the furthest outside post and still beat a quality field. If he improves at all, he should be one of the contenders on May 4. What I really love is his turn of foot. Whenever jockey Tyler Gaffalione has asked the question, War Of Will has responded with an electrifying turn of foot. That could be a Derby winning move.

2. Game Winner

The undefeated Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner will go off the chalk in the San Felipe on March 9. He should after dominating his foes last year. One thing to consider is that he hasn't been as electrifying yet as Justify was last year, but he'll have a bottom after racing 4 times as a 2-year-old.

He won't have to win the San Felipe to be a force in the Santa Anita Derby. He's one of the grittiest horses in Bob's barn, though. So, there's a chance he comes out guns blazing.

3. Improbable

Like Game Winner, Baffert's other accomplished 3-year-old is undefeated. He's also bred to be both super fast and run all day. His sire, City Zip, is known for producing excellent sprinters. On his mom's side, he's got A.P. Indy and Stravinsky. His stablemate will get the press, but Improbable's good enough to best him in the San Felipe.

He's already won at Santa Anita, Churchill Downs, and Los Alamitos. Those are 3 very different racetracks, meaning he's already shown he can take his game to wherever Bob wants to run him.

4. Mucho Gusto

I loved how he relaxed behind the front runners in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. He then had to hold off Gunmetal Gray, which he did. Because he already knows how to rate, he might be further along than Improbable and, maybe, even Game Winner.

Baffert's not running Mucho Gusto in the San Felipe. Instead, he's sending him to Oaklawn for the Rebel Stakes. American Pharoah used the Oaklawn path to win the Kentucky Derby in 2015.

5. Instagrand

Yes, he's definitely a good horse, but I'm wondering if he'll be ready for the Kentucky Derby off only 2 preps. Unlike the rest of the horses on this list, Instagrand hasn't run since winning the Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar back on August 11. Sometimes, I feel trainers can be too careful with their horses.

If he runs lights out in the San Felipe, awesome! If he doesn't, what will happen? Will Jerry Hollendorfer put him on the bench for another 6 months?

In a couple of weeks, 3 of the 5 horses on my Derby list: Instagrand, Improbable, and Game Winner, are set to battle in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita. Make sure to keep an eye out for that race as well as all the other Derby preps!
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